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>> now here's hw brand. [inaudible conversations]
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>> somebody's waving their hands in the back, can you hear or not hear? okay, thumb's up, thank you very much. welcome to our session this morning at the texas book festival with hw brand. happy to see such a full tent today. i wanted to let you know i'm steve, doing a little q&a with bill. fifteen minutes after the session, bill will be signing books in the book signing tent which is between 10th and 11th on congress just down the street. please patronize the book signing tent and the bookstore. as you know, and, please, buy bill's book which i think there won't be a problem. [laughter] oh, yes. this is the book. "the man who saved the union:
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ulysses grant in war and peace." if you buy the book, proceeds from that go to support texas libraries and literacy throughout texas so it's a great book to read and a great book to fund a worthy cause. bill, hw, is the dixon, antedderson allen professor at the university of texas here in austin. his focus has been, for many years, on american history in politics, and his biographies and histories include a number of tremendous books of which this is just the most recent. they are also in the class about franklin roosevelt, biography of andrew jackson called "andrew jackson," "the age of gold," about the american gold rush in the 1840s "the first american" and these books compromise very
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purposely a history of the united states through the last 200 or so years. a number of these books have been best sellers. two of them in the class and "the first american" a finalist for the pulitzer prize. you see bill brands on tv all the time if you turn on the history channel or if there's three in the morning, and you turn on the tv, there he is. [laughter] this book, i'm going to hold it up again so you can see it and recognize it easily at the book signing tent. it's a tremendous biography of ulysses grant filled with stuff i certainly never knew and was delighted to find out. it's very authoritative and readable, but before we get to grant, himself, i wanted to ask bill a more broad question about biography because here's at the book festival, there's a number
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of biographers. i read several already, the massive history of biography of lynn don johnson, jan reeds' biography of richards, and the biography of leonard cohen, all of these, among others at the festival. i was curious, bill, because all the books are so different in author's approaches, subject matter, whether the subject is dead or arrive, what kind of access the biographer had to the subject. i'm curious, do you have a philosophy having written many biographies? what exactly a biography should be and what it should do? >> thanks for the question, steve, thanks for all of you coming out this morning. i know sunday morning is sometimes a chore to get people out, and i'm gratified so many of you arrived. the question of biography and
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what i conceive it to be, i'm trainedded as a historian so i tend to look at biographies which, regardless of how they are written, to some extent, all comprise the life and times of the subject. i tend to include more times than some other biographers do. in my experience and observation, biographers come to the subject from one of two directions. either a historian, like me, or they are journalists, and sometimes novelists find a way in. the folks coming from the direction of history tend to -- well, sort of borrow an image from film making, they tend to broaden the focus on the character. you see the character, but you also see more of the background. the character is at least in part a vehicle of telling the story of the character's times. journalists and others who come from the notary public---
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non-history direction have a tighter focus so the subject fills up more of the frame all the time. now, beyond that, we could get into the question of what do you make of a life, and how do you reconstruct the lives of people, in some cases, they are dead, and in some cases, they are still living. that has to do, i think, with, well, one's view of human nature, and i will confess that in times -- in some of the books i've taken on, i really was concerned whether i was qualifieded to write about the person that i was writing about. there's -- first of all, there's the whole question of how can you write a bunch of pages about somebody you never met? about someone whose voice you never heard? you don't know exactly how tall they were. you don't know what impression they made when they walked into a room, and so you don't know
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some very basic stuff that a person who just encounteredded your subject -- encountered your summit for 15 seconds in life knew. another thing is there's certain life experiences that we all share. we were all children at one time, and so you can imagine if your subject, if little benjamin franklin is toddling around colonial boston, you can imagine what that might have been like. when i wrote about frankly, though, i realized a large part of the story was going to consist the franklin growing old because he became america's emissary to france during the american revolution, and i started writing about franklin when i was around 40 or so, and i really wondered whether i was going to be able to understand what it was like to grow old and infirm, which was a large part
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of the franklin story, and partly for this reason, i decided, and this is carried through in my other books, i decided to tell my story, relate the lives of my characters as much as possible through the perceptions, the words of people who saw them, people who knew them. my books tend to have more of, sort of, eyewitness stuff than some others, and if i have a choice between writing a scene in my own words and writing a scene in the words of somebody there, i pen towards the person there. that conveys a certain authenticity, and i'll say it, relieves me of the burden -- no, really, of sort of providing the authority because the question that anyone should have in reading a work of history is, well, how does the author know what he's telling me, and if i
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can make it very clear, it's not me that's really telling you this. the room looked like this, franklin seemed like this to somebody who was actually there. that's a round about answer to the question. >> great. well, let's get directly to ulysses grant. the book is called, as you know, "the man who saved the union: ulysses grant in war and peace." two questions about the title, bill. what happened to the "s" in ulysses s. grant? [laughter] >> it's not there? >> no. [laughter] >> what are you going to do with editors? [laughter] no, no, i'll tell you the answer. the answer is that the "s." was an an artifact. he always went by -- he was born, and always went by his middle name. i have sympathy who go by --
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yeah, who go by our middle names, and so his birth name was not ulysses s. grant, but became known as that when he became president. i don't know if there is a memory of my own from childhood that drew me to grant, but in the neighborhood that i grew up in in portland, oregon, there was a public park, and the sign on the public park was "us grant park." for the longest time, i thought it was a federally owned park named for somebody granted to the city. [laughter] for some reason or other. [laughter] so that's part of the answer. the other answer is i had a hard time convincing the people who designed the jacket to get all the words on there that are already on there so the man who saved the union, ulysses grant in war and peace, that's a lot of words, and then you also have
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to -- >> i'll hold it up. >> you need space for a photograph so i didn't want to push things. just one last thing, and that is ewe ulysses grant rolls off the tong. add an "s" there, and, no. [laughter] >> i have a more substantive question about the title. [laughter] it's called the man who saved the union, and i get that, that it, you know, that grant was the general who turned the tide in the civil war thus saving the union, but what i didn't know until i read the book that his -- the work of saving the union went on much beyond the civil war for him as president, and i -- this is -- so he saved the union twice one could argue. is that correct, or am i just making this up? >> steve, you're not supposed to say that with such a quizzical tone in the voice. you should say, "and i was
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convinced upon reading it that he did save the union twice." [laughter] since you say it could be argued, it's incumbent upon me to argue that, as i do in the book. [laughter] >> yeah. >> first of all, there's many people who might even take issue with grant saving the union during the civil war, didn't lincoln do that? well, yeah, he did, and i'm not going to say grand grant was the only person who saved the union, but he was the commanding general of the armies that put lincoln's policies into effect. he was the general who accepted the surrender of the army of northern virginia under robert e. lee that ended the war so if anybody won the war on the battlefield, if you could say that any one person did, and, of course, you can't, but one of the things we do in history is we generalize. we simplify because history reality is simply too complicated to get our heads around if we deal with it in its
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full complexity so grant saved the union during the civil war, and i do contend that grant saved the union during reconstruction as well. one of the reasons i decided to write about grant was that i wanted to write about someone who was central to the civil war, but i also wanted to write about someone who was deeply involved in reconstruction. it is -- oh, i have to ask a question. how many of you are ut alums? okay. how many of you studied history at the university of texas? you should all raise your hand because it's required by the state legislature. [laughter] those who didn't raise your hand, go check that diploma to see if it's valid. [laughter] the reason i mention this is that the -- against my better judgment, and i'm a late arrival. i've only been teaching at ut in 1981 -- [laughter] the two semester american history course is divided into
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1865, which -- which, well, first of all, it's logistically imblaseble these days -- implausible these days, and the decision to divide it at that point was in 1915, at that time, there was a lot less of 1865 to the present than there is now. [laughter] the second problem is, and this is more conceptualñi is it realy does violence to the story of the civil war because the civil war -- the civil war ended formally in april 1865, but the deviciveness, the issues that gave rise to the civil war did not disappear. the union fell apart in pieces starting in the 1850s, formal succession began at the end of 1860, and there was a foreign and a -- four and a half year period in which the union was sundered, and then put back together on
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the battlefield, but, you know, since vietnam, we've become aware that you win wars at least in large part by winning the hearts and mind of those people that you're contesting against. i can guarantee you that in 1865 the hearts and mind of the south were not with the union, one of the points i make in the book is that the civil war was the easy part or the straightforward part. war makes things very clear. in fact, one of the major, sort of, emotional themes in the book, is how war did make things clear for people like ulysses grant, who before the war, simply could not get his act together in civilian life. civilian life was much more confusing. there were many more considerations that one had to take account of. there were all sorts of standards of success where you are doing well. there were various influences
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that impinged on your life. once the war began for grant, things got really clear. he understood this was what the objective was and this was how to get there. he discovered in himself something that he didn't have any idea of, and that no one else did either. he had a genius for modern war. oi could elaborate, but the important point here is that, as i say, war made everything straightforward. we got army, you got your army. we bang it out and we see who wins. in fact, on the question of succession, grant was not a constitutional lawyer. he thought that the south had the inferior argument over whether succession was legal, but he shared something with lincoln, and that was even if succession was unconstitutional, they both acknowledged a right
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of revolution. this was the right the american colonies exercised in the american revolution, but the deal of revolution, evidence based on the inalienable rights, life, liberty, pursuit of happiness and self-government, but the evolution is you have to win. nobody hands you victory in a revolution. that's what the war was about, but then, the war ends and the south has to be reintegrated into the union, but there are all these reconstructed confederates who believe they have the better part of the argument, who believe the white race should be supreme in the south, who resent entirely the fact abolition was imposed on the south, whereas in the civil war, they didn't have a vote or say in the national government. all of the sudden, they do. during war, the rules of democracy were suspended. democracy's based on majority
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rule. once the war ends, democracy kicks back in. the south has to be reintegrated politically, and when grant was nominated for president in 1868, grant was, first of all, the nominee by acclamation of the republican nomination. grant did not lift a finger on his own behalf. he allowed himself to be nominated, and he allowed himself to be elected. he didn't give any speeches. he wrote out his acceptance of the nomination, and the one -- the one line in that message that caught the attention of the country was "let us have peace." now, this was something that electrified the south as well as the north because during the peer from 1865, the end of the war to the 1868, congress and washington and the south were battlefields of a different kind. congress warring against the
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executives. the radical republicans in congress impeached johnson. the question was who would govern there? the other question is who would govern in the south? would the republican regimes that to a large degree were imposed on the south by union troops govern there, or would the prewar majorities govern in the south? grant, to the surprise of many southerners, became something of a sympathetic figure. he was the good union general. he was the one who granted quite generous voander terms to -- surrender terms to lee's troops, and believing upon the war's end, they had to get back to the south, which was starving as a result of the war, and in no small part of the grant strategy carried out in places like georgia. the south was starving. he let them take the horses to go back and plow the fields, and he began treating them again as fellow americans rather than his rebels. when his own troops began to
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cheer upon the vender, he told them to be quiet. these are our countrymen now. grant became this sympathetic general. sherman was the devil incarnate in the south until the end of his days. grant was a unifying figure, and i can elaborate on this more, but you must have other questions. [laughter] >> well, yeah -- [laughter] not that i'm trying to insert yourself in the conversation -- [laughter] but i want to ask, i really want to ask you to talk about grant as just the guy because he was the most unlikely political material to be president of the united states, and, you know, he talked about his knees knocking when he had to give a speech, and how did it happen that this guy, who is so -- just so non-demonstrable, not political, you present it credibly, a
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powerful and important president of the united states? >> grant was most unassuming, i agree, the most unassuming major historical person which i've run across, and his modesty persisted until the very end, quite literally. i begin my story at end of grant's life when he was composing his memoir. grant, for a long time resisted writing the memoirs. thought it's after the fact, monday morning quarterbacking stuff was better left to other people. as soon as the war ended, they apologized for mistakes, and grandizing successes. grand stayed out in until the e. the only reason he took up the pen because he was swindled by the equivalent of bernie madoff. he was broke, and he would leave
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his wife broke. he needed to make money. he got connected with mark twain who realized a a memoir would be a huge seller, which, indeed, it was. early on, in fact, he discovered he was dying of cancer, and so the nation watched as grant was in this race for, well, sort of a race for his life and for his second life, and it was unclear whether grant would finish writing the story of his life before he finished his actual life, but as he was in the final stages of both writing the memoir and dying of cancer, he wrote some notes to himself, and one of the notes that he writes gets at your question. this is grant at the age of 6 # 5, he knows he's dying -- 63, knows he's dying, and he's -- he has now been the commanding general, the only general to
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have the rank that george washington held in the revolutionary war since then. he might well have been one of the most famous people on earth. he took a world tour after leaving the white house, and everywhere he went, crowds turned out to see this great american hero, but he writes just weeks before he dies, he says "i never thought of acquiring rank in the profession i was educated for, namely the military." "yet, it came with two grades higher prefix to the rank of general officer for me. i certainly never had either ambition or taste for a political life, yet, i was twice president of the united states. one of the striking things to me on writing this story was observing how grant did, and mostly did not change personally as he became this world historical figure. when the civil war began, grant
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was living in galena, illinois, and one thing after another failed for him. he failed as a farmer. he failed in selling real estate. he failed in selling insurance. he finally had to fall back on a long standing offer from his father who really thought that ulysses grant had very few gifts at all, and he went to work for his younger brother in the family leather store, and he was fully confined to -- fully resigned, excuse me, fully resigned to a life of mediocrity, and if the war had not come, the world never would have heard of ulysses grant. he was not one who had any burning ambition. if he had -- if he had not been essentially handed the presidency, it never would have occurred to him to seek it.
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he definitely did not have that proverbial fire in the belly that presidential candidates these days are almost required to have, and despite the fact that by war's end, he realized that he was pretty good at this general stuff. he never thought that that particularly qualified him to be president, but if the people through the democratic process would summon him to the presidency, he would answer that call the way he had always answered the call of his military superiors. >> great. i want to open it to questions in just a second, but there was one other thing i wanted to ask you before we get to that. you teach american history, and you've taught american history for a long time, and those of us who know bill know that he already knows everything before he sits down to write a book because he's taught it for so
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long, but i'm very curious is there one -- was there one giant surprise about grant when you put this book together? something that you didn't know or didn't expect that really -- >> i won't say there was a giant surprise. i will say that there was an abiding question that drove me to write the book, and it's a question that i don't exactly have an answer to. i have answers, plural, to it, but i don't think that's a single answer. it's a question broader than grant, and when you hear the question, well, you'll know how broad it is. the question is this. it's simple. why is there war? every society has wars. i've never encountered either in the study of history or reading of anthropology, encountered a society where war was not merelily something that happened, but a really big deal in the societies. there is something about humans that inclines us towards war.
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my question that i've been posing to my history classes for years is why is this so? it's striking me as paradoxical. there's relatively few societies. i don't know if any societies today that say war is a great thing. if we say war is a great think, this question of why is there war, there's no answer. why is there sex? well, people think sex is a good idea. you don't have to ask that question, but with war, most people think wars are really bad things. why does it happen so often? with my students, we kind of work our way through two basic answers to the question. the theme opposed, and to some degree they are, they are not uncomp elementary. one answer, and i think the answer favored, i presume by most of us because i think by
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most people in the united states, i can point out one conspicuous exception if you want to hear it. most people say that war is when things go wrong, and therefore, if you want to explain why there is war, you need to explain various things that can go wrong so things can go wrong because there's misunderstanding among nations, and if you look at the run up to world war i, the duke got assassinated, but then they had these ultimates back and forth. if somebody made a different decision, the war might not have happened. there's wars the result of really bad characters, you know, unusual people like hitler. hitler was responsible for world war ii. this is a comforting explanation because it allows us to say that either war's because of the few bad guys, and if you watch out for them and somehow keep their hands off the reigns of power, then we'll be okay, or if war is
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something because of a misunderstanding, well, let's know each other belter, and there won't be war so the other responsibility, though, is that war is not when things go wrong, but when things go right that there's something positively attractive about war. now, this might touch a part of our characters that we aren't particularly happy about. maybe we don't want to acknowledge, but one of the reasons i wrote about grant is that he was one, william sherman another, phil on the other, robert e. lee on the confederate side. these were people really good at war. they were good in a kind of technical sense. they knew how to arrange battles, but they were also good in i'm going to use the word "a moral sense" although, you might -- when i explain, you might question whether that's the right word. grant's great gift for war,
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well, actually, it was two-fold. one is, and this is something that he didn't know really anything about until he got in the thick of things in the civil war. number one. he could envision a battlefield better than almost anybody. one of the primary problems of military command in the civil war less so now that we have satellites and aircraft to oversee everything, one of the hardest parts was figuring out what the battlefield looked like, where the troops were, and how to approach each other. grant had a gift that i don't know where it came from. you know, some people have a spatial imaginations that's better than others. the other aspect, and this is the "moral" part. grant had the ability to do something the five commanders of union forces that proceeded him did not have. he had the ability to give the order to go into battle. now, that sounds like an
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oversimplification, but george mcclellan was as good as grant was at preparing for battle. he was even more beloved of his troops than grant was, but mcclellan didn't have the nerve. he didn't have, well, maybe you could call it the brutality to give the orders for battle when he knew that before the battle ended, thousands of those young men he was speaking to would be dead. when i was writing the book, you asked about a surprise, i was not surprised, but struck by this because this trait in grant, i found, at once admirable and appalling. admirable because, i guess, if there is a war, you need somebody to be able to do that, but appalling in that it requires us to do something we're all taught at a very early age that we must not do, and that is to elevate the end above
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the means. that's what winning a war is all about. the means are dirty. the means are brutal. the means include the death of all sorts of people who didn't do anything to bring on this war, but if you believe in the end, and you have that steal of character that grant had, lincoln had it too. although, he was not on the battle -- he didn't have the give the order the night before, but if you have that, then you can send the troops into battle, and your side will win. this gets back to what i was saying earlier. war clarifies for grant, the ends of the war, holing the union together, and then after the emancipation proclamation, freeing the slaves. this justified almost anything required to achieve it. now, one could say, boy, that's a tough call cue louse to make there. how do you measure political union against 6,000 lives?
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grant had a practical take on this as well, and that was he believed -- lincoln fully believed this -- that if there were two nations in the middle of the north american continent, this first war would not be the last war. they looked at the history of europe and said that the reason the united states had not been driven by the wars that afflicted europe for centuries was that there was a single country. once two countries are in north america, and they will go at it again. this war wouldn't be the last, and in the long run, even at 600,000 lives, this might be a bargain in human suffering. >> okay. questions from the audience. okay. we'll start over here, yes, sir. >> [inaudible] >> is there a mrch he -- microphone he can use? sorry, sir.
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>> well, i don't know, is the mmp working? >> yes, it is. >> okay, good deal. we'll all talking before here, and we were wondering when you were going to get to the part about what we all believe down here in the southern part of the united states, in the marrow of our bones, how he was a drunk and corrupt politician. you're contradicting that it seems like. you came to different conclusions, did you? >> i did. grant was known -- i'll give you grant's reputation for years. he was a drunk and a butcher, and his administration was one of the most corrupt in american history. historians rating presidents until the beginning of this century put grant in the bottom two or three. he's right down there with james by buchanan, and, well, james buchanan, grant, and maybe one or two others. grant's reputation for drinking is -- has been vastly
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exaggerated. grant didn't have so much a drinking problem as he had a problem holding his liquor -- [laughter] well -- [laughter] no, no, the distinction is not unimportant because grant, in essence, sort of drank out of the army in the 1850s, but the reason he drank himself out of the arian -- army in the 1850s in the first place is he was stationed a thousand miles from the wife and children, one of whom he'd never seen, stationed on the dreary northwest coast of the united states, and coming from the northwest, i can tell you, if you're not from there, there is a strong tendency towards depression, even suicide during the winter months. [laughter] the sun goes away on the first of october, and it might come out by the first of the following july. the last of the thing was that grant was in a drinking culture. army officers in those days were
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expected to drink like gentlemen, which meant they were expected to drink a lot and not show the effects. grant's voice would start to slur when he had had one drink. he'd wobble when he would have two, and he was just a sorry excuse for an officer in the culture. combinedded that with the fact he wanted to be out of the military anyway. he resigned rather than brought up on charges of dare lix on charges of drinking. that was the reputation grant acquired in the army. the army between the war with mexico and the civil war was a very small and very gossipy club, and, okay, so grant drank himself out of the army. no one would have thought anything of it except that when the civil war began, grant vaulted over dozens of officers senior to himself who took
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delight in spreading the stories of grant's drinking. i tracked down accounts of grant's drinking to the extent that i could, and i discovered that on maybe two occasions during the civil war, he got drunk to the extent that he got drunk, went to bed, slept it off, and woke up in the morning fresh as a daisy. he never got drunk at a time when being drunk impairedded his ability to perform his responsibility. he got drunk once, for example, in the seize, where nothing was happen other than waiting for them to surrender. i never encountered a report he was drunk while president so this is a story that's stuck with him. in part because it's really -- it's a label you can put on somebody and it's pretty hard to disprove. the second one, about grant being a butcher, yeah.
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this was something that even occurred to some of the grant's fans in the civil war, and this, because the civil war shocked american sensibilities. when the war began, no one north or south, had any idea how big a conflict it was going to become. how many people would be enlisted on both sides. how many people would die and be maimed. nobody had any idea. the fact that grant was involved, and in a sense responsible for the casualties was a direct consequence of the fact that grant was the foremost of the union generals who was willing to fight. this is why lincoln eventually promoted grant saying he will fight. grant's approach to war was you hit the enemy fast, and you hit the enemy again, and you hit the enemy again. grant was one who was going to take the fight to the enemy. unsurprising, and given the fact that the forces he was fighting
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against were almost always entrenched behind defensive lines, this meant he was probably going to suffer more casualties than the other side, but on a proportional basis, grant's casualties were actually lower than the casualties of lee, and related to this was a calculation, you can consider this cold-blooded, and it was cold blood, no question about it. grant realized by the end game, by the virginia campaign of 1865-65, he understand that the fundamental math of the war. every casualty that cost grant a soldier could be replaced. every says -- casualty that cost lee a soldier could not replace. we fight, we fight, we fight, and eventually lee runs out of fighters. the last thing grant's corruption in office, no one, not even in grant's day accused him of anything of the most upright integrity. they did accuse him of being a bit too loyal to people who took
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advantage of their high office, but here, again, there's a great deal of exaggeration that goes on. the guilded age has been known as the age of corruption in american politics, and the two great scandals of the era in textbooks and recited again and again 1 the construction of the transcontinental railroad in which members of congress were part of an inside gang funneling money from the federal government channeled through the construction company and into their pockets, and dozens, if not hundreds of people were involved, millions of dollars built. the second big scandal was the scandal involving the tweed ring in new york. boss tweed and hall raked off hundreds of millions in the construction projects in new york. now, when people talk about corruption scandals, the guilded age, those are the two that stand out, neither of which had anything to do with ulysses grant. he was -- his administration did
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have scandals, no question about that. even his private secretary was involved in one scheme. this was small scale stuff compared to the big one, but the essential problem grant faced was the early histories effort grant administration was written by his enemies. the victors write the histories. they didn't write the history of the civil war. the losers wrote the history of the civil war. the lost cause of the south, and southerners had no stake in grant's reputation, but the other thing was that half the republican party, more than half the republican party, bailed on grant. the republican party originally consisted of two wings, the anti-slavery wing and the pro-business wing. they worked well together enough during the civil war, but after the civil war and slavery is gone, it was the corporate wing of the republican party that took over, and the corporate wing wanted nothing to do with
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the freed men in the south, nothing to do with civil rights. grant was the last of the lincoln republicans. one point i make is grant was the only president between lincoln and johnson who took civil rights for african-americans at all seriously, and after grant left office, the african-american -- the former slaves were simply left to the tender mercies of the white majorities of the south, and quickly, they were shoved to the side of politics. >> okay. don't ask a question if you don't want bill to answer it thoroughly. [laughter] >> i accept yes, no, and multiple choice questions. [laughter] >> we have just three minutes left, and it's a serious deadline. you have to ask a brief question and see what answer we can get out of bill. >> i hope so. you said once youmented to write american history through biography. when i read the binge min frankly biographers, he was the
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prototypical american, modern in some sense. who -- having once been to england, i saw different people, even though they speak english. who was the first american in the sense that he has or she has attitudes like we do on any plans of writing a biography like that, between 1620 over 1770. >> who is the first american -- >> who would you think after our early colonization would have american attitudes that we recognize today as american attitudes? >> benjamin franklin, of course, there's a book about him called "the first american." >> that was brave, thank you. one more quick question. [laughter] >> i'm fascinated by the rejoining of the saving the nation in peacetime and the civil war. what advice would grant give to
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our political candidates for president now or what would they learn from this, from grant? [laughter] was that a good one? [laughter] >> we're getting the hook over here i'm afraid. >> it's a very apt question, hard to answer, and i'm going to beg off on it because the times were entirely different. the challenge that confront every president are almost unique to those times. grant -- grant will never be considered one of the great presidents. the deck was stacked against him, but if you pick a great president, lincoln, what would he do today? i have no idea. what would roosevelt do today in no idea. the times are so different. what you learn studying presidential history, american history is that greatness is not, by any means, intrinsic in individuals. it's a confluence of individuals
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and context. the president who leads us out of the mess today probably is a president who would not have been at all equipped to deal with the civil war or reconstruction so that might be an unsatisfactory answer, but that's the best i got. [laughter] >> well -- [applause] >> thank you, bill. [applause] for those of you still waiting to ask a question, just read the book. it's all answered "in the man who saved the union," thank you, bill brands. [applause] [inaudible conversations]
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that was hw brands, live from the texas book festival. we'll be back in a few minutes with more. >> this back, in particular, deals, i think, at its heart, with several deserts, but ultimately the subtitle is "boom and bust in the new old west" so i'm looking at the way the economy affects our lives, the way the economy gets into our very bodies. it's a book that i write because i, my body, arrivedded in the desert under very particular
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circumstances in the winter of 1997 when i was broke, broken, and on drugs. i was in mexico city where i had been lucky enough to go under a book contract from new york. i got an advance from a new york publisher to write a book. it was, you know, a dream come true, and in mexico city by 1997, i had crossed the deadline, and i didn't have a word written. , i was broke. i called the only friend that i could count on at that point because my lifestyle led me to destroy personal relationships. i called one friend, a performance artist from coast ca rica who livedded in the united states, met through the solidarity network, politics in the 1980s, and i said, --
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] speaking spanish], and there was a set of serks ling her, from the central tropics, central america, how did she end up in the desert? everyone has a story of the desert and how they got there. she said we'll take care of you over give you a place to live. after that, i arrived in the desert, and one of the first thing i saw when i rented my shack in the sand next to a sign that said "next service is 100 miles," the town of 29 # palms, east of joshua tree, i felt myself driven to go further out. she was in the village of joshua tree, on the edge of the beautiful national park. if you have not been there, you
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know u2's album at least, you know what the tree looks like. crazy arms going this way and that. [laughter] well, i wanted to go further out. there was something existential that was driving me further and further out into the nothing, the big empty as they say about the desert. also because the further out you went, the rents got cheaper and cheaper. i paid $275 a month for a two bedroom house with five acres of land on the edge of 29 palms right where that sign said "next service is 100 miles," and that's where this book begins. it begins with a personal crisis and arising -- it was no accident that i arrived in the particular landscape, and ultimately, the desert has been the site of restorative pilgrimage for my milenia.
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i, at that particular moment, i was not aware of what i was doing. i didn't say i'mñ&r in big troue with my life, i must go in the desert, but ultimately, that's the space i was entering, and later on, i realized that all the symbolism was there to receive me, and i began the process of healing and getting to know this place which included almost immediately dealing with the fact that i was arriving on a landscape that had as many problems as mexico city, with drugs. i was coming from a place of addiction and all the pain and struggle that goes with that, and arriving at a place where meth was devastating landscape, meth labs were exploding, and where young marines were training and doing lots of drugs to escape the terrible reality
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in their heads and in their bodies. if i was going to a site that carried ancient symbolism of restorative healing pilgrimage, i was also entering a place that was the opposite of that, a fantastic place. many years after i moved to joshua tree and 29 palms -- actually, just a few years later, i met my partner, angela garcia, sitting in the audience tonight, teaches at stanford, and wrote a wonderful book about the december outer called "the pastoral clinic," about addiction. she's from the desert. that's one of the things, you know, i fell for immediately about her, the fact she was a desert girl, a western girl with a capital "w," from new mexico, the south valley, and we ended
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up living in new mexico together while she was doing research for her dissertation on addiction. she's a medical anthropologist now at stanford university, shadowed at stanford. we have stanford people representing here tonight. [laughter] so i followed angela on to another landscape, northern new mexico which i'd already seen. i'd be there as a tourist when i was younger, but we've all seen northern new mexico, represented artistically, whether it's, you know, a little, you know, postcard in the carousel, a truck stop, ansel adams, an artist colony painters, the writers, films, how many westerns, you know, have we seen that have the landscape of
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mesas, buttes, and ranges? northern new mexico, in particular, has a very powerful draw in terms of its enchanted landscape, indeed. the official state nickname of new mexico is "land of enchantment" that carries a whiff of new age mysticism with it, and it makes it soft, glowy, warm, and fuzzy and obscures a complicated reality. ultimately, that's what desert america's about. it's about how we imagine the desert or how the desert has been imagined for us by the many artistic reputations that created a pool of imagery, a vision of the desert that is consumed, that is bought and sold, that is the stage upon which real estate ultimately is sold, and hotels and staying at hotels and tourist packages, ect., and how complicated the
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actual human geography of the place is. there's the imagined place and there's the lived place. i'm going to take you to northern new mexico briefly here. angela chose northern new mexico. she's from central new mexico. both of our families have issues with addiction. i think that was another point of encounter between us. she chose northern new mexico to be not right next door to her family, you know, but close enough we could visit often, and also because northern new mexico, there's a place called the espanola valley along highway 68 which ultimately comes out of santa fe. if you have driven there, you go
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through that espanola valley called the low road. that place in northern new mexico has the highest rate of heroin addiction and death from overdose of heroin of anywhere in the country. it has been for a long time, and the problem is not getting better. it's getting worse. watch in and other programs online at here's a look at books published this week: >> could have looked
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at more, but within the confines of the book, you can only do so much, so we wanted diversity. we wanted democrats k -- democrats, republicans. we wanted different parts of the country, to some extent, different ages. we knew on the basis of nine that you can't make generalizations that are 100% certain. we say as much in the book that we think our conclusions are hypothesis that other people might now run with, but in order to make even those kinds of hypothesis, we needed a fairly diverse group. >> yeah. we also included women, you know, there's a white house project that's been around for the last couple election cycle,
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and they had eight in 2008. several of the women that the white house project identified several years before the 2008 election, olympia snowe, sebelius both in there. we wanted to consider the notion, barbara lee, who was in here several years ago with the last round on madam president, six years ago with her foundation, talked about looking at women governors. we wanted to look at women governors who had been through some of barbara lee's training as the pipeline to the presidency. >> we also made the observation that when a male is elected to senatorship, immediately he's cast as a future presidential hopeful. scott brown was not sworn in yet in massachusetts, and the url, was already purchased. so many women had been in washington for so many years as
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legislatures and working on important work and, yet, their names never bubbled to the top, and we were curious why not? >> how did you decide that you wanted to write this book? i mean, all three of you studied similar topics, but how did the book actually come about? >> it was your idea, ted. >> ted? >> well, i guess it was my idea. i -- i've been a political nerd since i was, you know, i don't know, my parents still remember my sister and i in 1960 staging a nixon-kennedy debate with our stuffed animals. [laughter] my elephant beat her rabbit. [laughter] and during all of those years of nerdom -- [laughter] what always fascinated me were the magazine issues that would come out way in advance of a presidential election that would preview the eight or ten or 12
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people who ought to be considered, and it simply struck me after seeing so many of those issues of so many magazines that women were not making it on to that list. they were not being thought to be presidential. they were thought, for some reason, not to be of presidential timber, and so, you know, as an academic, you tend to ask, well, why? that, for me, was the origin of the book. >> watch this and other programs online at
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>> and now on booktv, william cooper presents a history of the lead up to the civil war, noer

Book TV
CSPAN October 29, 2012 1:00am-7:00am EDT

2012 Texas Book Festival Sunday Education. (2012) All day coverage of the 2012 Texas Book Festival.

TOPIC FREQUENCY Mexico 10, United States 7, Texas 6, Us 5, The Union 3, New York 3, Mexico City 3, America 3, Washington 3, New Mexico 3, Barbara Lee 2, Andrew Jackson 2, Ulysses 2, Benjamin Franklin 2, Virginia 2, Europe 2, Johnson 2, Robert E. Lee 2, Stanford 2, Joshua 2
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